How to counteract too much progesterone?

In this brief guide, we will answer the question, “How to counteract too much progesterone?”. We will further elaborate on the symptoms and causes of high progesterone levels in the body. 

How to counteract too much progesterone?

If your blood test reports an elevated level of progesterone in your body, and you are searching for ways to counteract it, do not worry, here in this article we have prepared a list of ways that can help you counteract too much progesterone. Try the approaches below:

  • Remove caffeine intake from your diet 
  • Take measures to actively control and overcome your stress (if feasible)
  • In case you are doing high strenuous exercises, reduce your exercise routine
  • Use the appropriate supplements intended to help stabilize cortisol levels
  • Monitor your serum cortisol levels and DHEA levels
  • Completely eliminate sugar and refined carbohydrates from the diet

In addition to these strategies, you must consult your doctor to discuss any underlying conditions affecting your progesterone levels.

What is progesterone?

Progesterone is a hormone that prepares the endometrium (lining of the uterus), for pregnancy following ovulation. It is a 21-carbon sex steroid synthesized from cholesterol by way of pregnenolone. Progesterone is produced principally in the corpus luteum of the ovaries and by the placenta (1).

Progesterone is also a neurosteroid (produced by nervous system tissues) and a neuroactive steroid (acts directly on nervous system tissues). Within the nervous system, progesterone is produced by neurons and glia. Enzymes required for the conversion of cholesterol to pregnenolone and the conversion of pregnenolone to progesterone are widely distributed within the brain. Progesterone circulates in both women and men (1).

Progesterone concentrations can be measured by radioimmunoassay in blood and saliva, and these values can then be analyzed in relation to results of concurrent cognitive testing. These associations have been examined in women of reproductive age during different phases of the menstrual cycle and during pregnancy, and they have been examined in older women after the menopause (1).

High progesterone levels are most commonly linked to the time just before menstruation or pregnancy. If a woman does not become pregnant, progesterone levels in her body will drop and this marks the start of the period. 

On the contrary, if pregnancy happens, progesterone resumes stimulating the body to provide the blood vessels that will nourish the developing fetus. Progesterone levels remain high during pregnancy and perhaps higher if you are expecting twins.

Progesterone plays a key role in the tasks necessary for reproduction. Beyond preparation for pregnancy, progesterone has a multitude of effects throughout the body, many of which may be attributable to its ability to oppose the action of estrogen. Multiple physical and psychological problems at midlife are often caused by an imbalance between progesterone and estrogen (2).

But, high progesterone levels in the body can also indicate the presence of cysts on the ovaries, a disease of the adrenal glands, or in the worst case, ovarian cancer. It could additionally be an indication of a molar pregnancy, where abnormal cells form in the placenta.

Getting high levels of progesterone from supplements can be linked to a little increased risk of having breast cancer. Most controlled studies and observational studies in the past five years suggest that the addition of synthetic progestins to synthetic estrogen in hormone replacement therapy, particularly in a continuous combined regimen, increases breast cancer risk compared to synthetic estrogen alone. By contrast, recent studies suggest that the addition of natural progesterone does not affect breast cancer risk. In fact, a large base of evidence suggests that progesterone is a protective agent against, as well as a potential adjunctive treatment for, breast and endometrial cancers (2).

Progesterone, either singly or in union with estrogen, is used by females as an oral contraceptive that acts to prevent ovulation and also thickens cervical mucus, making it suitable for preventing pregnancy.

Progesterone is also utilised in hormone replacement therapy to alleviate symptoms of menopause in females. Symptoms of high progesterone levels may be difficult to judge as they can be easily associated with menstruation and pregnancy.

Symptoms of high progesterone levels 

In women, progesterone is essentially only present during the luteal phase of the menstrual cycle and during pregnancy. There is also considerable variability in progesterone levels across women. During the mid-luteal phase, progesterone levels above 25 nmol/l indicate successful ovulation, but progesterone levels in the range of 40–60 nmol/l may exist. Stress during the follicular phase may lead to slightly elevated progesterone levels, in the range of 5 nmol/l. If, on the other hand, higher progesterone levels are encountered in the luteal phase, it is usually a sign of successful implantation and pregnancy (3). The following symptoms are related to abnormal elevated progesterone levels:

  • Slight dizziness
  • Weight fluctuations (normally mild weight increase of 5 to 10 pounds)
  • Discomfort or pain in the legs
  • Water retention
  • Drowsiness
  • Sad feelings 
  • Sense of physical instability
  • Feeling on edge
  • Bloating
  • Decreased sex drive
  • Spinning sensation
  • Anxiety or just feeling tensed
  • Not feeling like yourself

Other less common symptoms of high progesterone levels include

  • Hot flashes 
  • Significant weight gain
  • Insomnia
  • Anxiety or panic attacks
  • Increased appetite
  • Depression

The causes of high progesterone levels 

Many conditions can lead to high progesterone levels, so let us have a look at the most common causes of high progesterone in females (4): 

  • Too many progesterone supplements
  • Changes in the menstrual cycle
  • A decrease in estrogen levels in the body 
  • Pregnancy
  • Over supplementation with pregnenolone or other progesterone precursors
  • Adrenal related problems (excess production of adrenal hormones and/or incorrect adrenal enzyme signaling)

High progesterone levels may also be due to (5):

  • Stress 
  • Caffeine 
  • Smoking 

Another important cause of high progesterone is a condition called congenital adrenal hyperplasia (CAH). This unusual disease attacks the adrenal glands, the small glands on the surface of the kidneys that secrete hormones, and is the outcome of a lacking enzyme, 21-hydroxylase.

The congenital adrenal hyperplasia destroys the balance of hormone production and can cause a higher expression of male traits. For instance, women with a severe form of this disease can be born with ambiguous genitalia, and those with milder forms of this disease may have early indications of puberty or fertility issues.

Risks of not treating hormone imbalances

Hormonal disturbances, when not treated, are more than just irritating mood swings and severe premenstrual syndrome. They can be signs that something more dangerous, in rare cases, even carcinogenic, is arising in the body.

Progesterone influences emotion processing and are likely causal factors for the mood symptoms experienced by women with premenstrual syndrome (PMS) and premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD). In healthy women, progesterone influences emotion processing, especially emotion recognition accuracy and emotional memories, both at the behavioral level and in the brain (3).

Not bringing the hormones back to normal levels can lead to other difficulties, such as raised cholesterol, osteoporosis, obesity, loss of sleep, etc.

Although properly diagnosed hormonal imbalances often require medical or even surgical mediation, a good lifestyle can help to alleviate moderate symptoms.

Try your best to have:

  • six to eight hours of sleep every day
  • More than thirty minutes of strenuous exercise every day
  • Good-quality nutrition with sufficient protein and healthy fats and limited sugar.

Conclusion 

In this brief guide, we have provided an answer to the question, “How to counteract too much progesterone?”. We have further elaborated on the symptoms and causes of high progesterone levels in the body. 

References 

  1. Henderson, V. W. Progesterone and human cognition. Climacter, 2018, 21, 333-340.
  2. Dzugan, Sergey, and Armond Scipione. Progesterone. Life Extension, 2006, 51.
  3. Sundström-Poromaa, Inger, et al. Progesterone–Friend or foe? Front Neuroendocrinol, 2020, 59, 100856.
  4. Jacobson, J.D. et al. Serum progesterone. 2019. University of Florida Health. 
  5. Nelson, Deborah B., et al. Does stress influence early pregnancy loss?. Ann epidemiol, 2003, 13, 223-229.

Hi, I am Charlotte, I love cooking and in my previous life, I was a chef. I bring some of my experience to the recipes on this hub and answer your food questions.